I don't know how I dragged myself to meditation at 6 a.m. the second day at Yogaville, but I did, and followed it with an Integral Hatha Yoga class. It took me a while to warm of to Integral Yoga, but now I adore its perfect blend of active and receptive poses, of movement and stillness, of asana, chanting and meditation.
After Hatha class came a bountiful breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and yogurt but no coffee, no caffeine of any kind, and in my undiagnosed fatigue state (one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer), I was a slave to the stimulation of caffeine.
The headache started soon after breakfast, persisted through the morning, hounded me through lunch. I took the Ashram Tour to see all the sights, the most memorable of which was the awesome overlook of the James River where you can see the Lotus Temple with its Butterfly Lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
I now have a great appreciation for the art of the siesta, but at that time, napping was not in my repertoire. After the tour, however, I lay down and didn't wake up till 5 p.m. I missed the brief opening of the coffee shop - no fix for me - as well as the afternoon Hatha class and felt cheated and grumpy, very grumpy. I was beginning to think that maybe I was Depressed.
Depressed would have been preferable to cancer.
We had another wonderful meal that night, which I enjoyed despite my splitting headache. We chatted with other pilgrims, then came back to our room and rallied for the evening program of satsang (teaching by the guru) where there was a short address by Sri Swami Satchidananda, and more chanting and ceremony.
Plus, there was a visit from another swami who looked just like Satchidananda. They were two guys with flowing white hair and beards, sort of dark, skinny Santa Clauses in orange dresses.
I drank in Swami-ji's presence, somehow knowing, despite my fuddlement, that I was in the presence of a great being, one who transcended all appearances and all doubt. I felt a brief cessation of my anxiety although the ache still pounded in my skull like an unwelcome wake-up call.
Betsy and I left Yogaville the next day, still too caught up in our own personal discomfort to fully appreciate the experience and the privilege of being in Swami-ji's presence. He left his body in 2002 and is entombed at Yogaville in a shrine called Chidambaram where his presence is honored, cultivated and felt.
We journeyed back to Winston-Salem a little disappointed and not particularly rested. We'd expected more of a spa or resort experience, I think. We hadn't understood what it means to be in an ashram that is more about spiritual activity and discipline than exercise.
But my long nap and unusual headache strengthened my resolve to find out what the heck was happening to me. Soon after that, I went to see Dr. Rawlings, and my journey to diagnosis began in earnest.
Next Week: Sonogram and Sweat Lodge